The Youngstown State baseball team will turn to freshman pitcher Russ Harless on two days rest to try and advance in the 2012 Horizon League Baseball Tournament against the host UIC Flames this afternoon at Les Miller Field. First pitch against the fourth-seeded Flames is set for noon Eastern. Live video and live stats will be available on the Horizon League Network throughout the day. The winner between No. 6 YSU and UIC will advance to play top-seeded Valparaiso in the championship round of the tournament at 4 p.m. Eastern, and the loser's season will end. Valparaiso rallied to beat UIC 4-3 last night in the winners' bracket final, which means the Crusaders will have to lose both this afternoon and tomorrow to be denied a trip to the NCAA Tournament. YSU has lost 21 straight games to UIC on its home field dating back to April 11, 1993.
How They Got Here
Youngstown State is a game away from the championship round for the second straight season and has followed the same path to this round. The Guins beat No. 3 Milwaukee 8-4 in the opening round of the tournament on Wednesday behind a quality start from Harless in which he allowed three runs on five hits in six innings. YSU lost 16-3 to Valpo on Thursday evening, but the Guins rebounded to beat No. 2 Wright State 5-4 in an elimination game on Friday. It was YSU's first victory over Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament, and the win snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Raiders. Wright State outscored YSU 84-17 during the regular season and posted wins of 32-4, 18-2 and 15-3. The Penguins have won at least two games in the Horizon League Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since joining the conference in 2002.
UIC won two lopsided games, 10-1 over No. 5 Butler and 19-9 over No. 2 Wright State, to advance to the winners' bracket final on Friday evening. The Flames led Valparaiso 3-0, and UIC starter Tomas Michelson did not allow a hit through four innings. The Crusaders scored once in the fifth and three times in the eighth to rally for its 4-3 win.
On The Mound
Russ Harless will be making his second start in four days today against UIC. He earned his third win of the season against Milwaukee on Wednesday by allowing three runs on five hits in six innings. He ranks second on the team with 49 strikeouts, and his 49-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio is best on the team and in the top 80 in the country. An extreme fly ball pitcher who pounds the zone, he has induced 132 fly outs and 41 grounds outs. That is more than 3.2 fly outs per ground out. Only two of Milwaukee's 18 outs on Wednesday were ground outs, and one of those was a sacrifice bunt. A potential starter against Valpo has not been announced.
Quick Notes from Friday
Wright State scored three runs in the first and once in the second to take a 4-0 lead. That is the largest deficit YSU has overcome to win this season... Starter Blake Aquadro helped YSU put up seven consecutive scoreless innings after WSU led 4-0. He allowed 10 hits and two walks in 8 2-3 innings. Aquadro has two wins and a save over the last two postseasons... Jeremy Banks extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games. He has hits in 10 of his 11 career games in the conference tournament... Craig Goubeaux walked twice and scored twice, both of which matched career highs.